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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 1036 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Not everything Totalcare does at the present time admits of that possibility, but we need to ensure that where we can provide a cost-effective and efficient service to the community of the ACT through Totalcare we do so. That is the commitment the government makes.

I have had frequent discussions with the Totalcare board. I intend to continue to work with them closely on this matter. I hope that the indication I have given today of the government's view on this will assure members, and particularly employees of Totalcare, that we have an undivided and complete commitment to the viability of that business and we will work very hard to ensure that that is realised over the coming years.

MS TUCKER (3.31): One of the key rationales provided by the government through the media for Totalcare losing the contract with ACT Housing was the fact that Totalcare employees are employed under the Public Sector Management Act. So, contrary to what Mr Humphries has just said, it was not about quality of service. It was about costs. This is one of the key issues we have to address as a society-how we are to make these judgments and what the implications and consequences of always making a decision based on least cost are.

It was presumed that employment practices through Totalcare's cost structure were too high and so worked against them in seeking to secure the ACT Housing contract. We have to ask the question: too high compared to what?

One aspect of the changing nature of workplace arrangements that the Greens see as destructive is the growing casualisation of the workplace and the associated erosion of working conditions and of security of employment. Mr Humphries talks about social capital. I would have thought a critical aspect of social capital was that workers within the community not be constantly in fear of not having employment and not being able to pay their way. The lack of available secure employment is now a significant part of workplace culture in Australia.

None of this issue is reflected in employment figures that governments collect. People are deemed to be employed if they have one or two hours employment a week. People are deemed to be employed no matter what their working conditions or their rates of pay.

It is too simple to argue that employment will not be lost when another company takes up the contract Totalcare has lost. The issue is more complex than simply one of employment numbers. Underlying the view of government in this instance are issues of quality of life.

Public sector employees in the ACT enjoy long service leave, maternity leave, special leave, paid holidays, reasonable expectation of incremental pay increases and a fairly strong bargaining position when it comes to enterprise bargaining. The casual work environment, however, offers minimal conditions and a poor bargaining position. The increase in casualisation has resulted in a growing discrepancy between employees at the top and those at the bottom of the pecking order.

Too many people in the work force are trapped in an environment that takes too much or too little of their time. The present industrial relations environment has seen those employees in weaker bargaining positions lose out. Where the imperatives of global

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